S&S assault nos. lower than actual

by Nathaniel Ward | 11/14/01 6:00am

As the College community continues to recover from the attacks on two female students Saturday morning, Sexual Abuse Awareness Program (SAAP) coordinator Abby Tassel pointed out that the actual number of sexual assaults at Dartmouth and other schools may be much higher than official reports.

The statistics published by Dartmouth's Safety and Security, which they are required to release by law, indicate that sexual assaults have remained steady for several years and are comparable with those from other institutions. Two assaults were reported at the College in both 1999 and 2000, while three were reported in 1998. No statistics are yet available for this year.

The numbers collected by SAAP, arranged by academic year, are "significantly higher," Tassel said.

For the 2000-2001 school year, SAAP received reports of 14 rapes, two attempted rapes, nine cases of unwanted sexual contact and four cases of "relationship abuse."

Since Fall term started, students have reported five rapes, two incidents of unwanted sexual contact and one case of relationship violence, Tassel said. The numbers do not include the incidents from last Saturday, which have not yet been categorized.

Apparently low official statistics released by Safety and Security can be deceiving, warned Tassel. Citing a 2000 report by the Bureau of Justice, Tassel said that as much as 85 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported.

"Its really hard for people to talk about this stuff, in particular when someone has been assaulted by a friend, a friend of a friend, or an acquaintance," she explained, adding that "when there's alcohol involved it's harder for people not to think its their fault."

Pat Bremman, director of Special Services at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed, saying that "victims tends to blame themselves" and that they often do not report sex crimes for "fear of isolation and fear of not being believed."

Tassel also said that Dartmouth is at much lower risk for "stranger assault" than urban schools, though the risk of assault by acquaintances remains the same.

According to Tassel there is no sense in blaming the victim, there are several steps people can take to protect themselves.

First, she suggested that students not go to or from parties alone, and that they moderate their alcohol consumption.

Tassel also stressed the importance of having a network of friends when out at parties. "Being the last woman at a fraternity can be a dangerous thing," she said.

The University of Pennsylvania reported seven sexual assaults in 1998 and 10, including two rapes, in 2000.

There have been no reported rapes so far this year, said Bremman, adding that most sexual assaults were committed by other students.

Bremman admitted that the actual number of sexual assaults is probably much greater.

At Columbia University's main Morningside Heights campus in upper Manhattan, two sexual assaults were reported in 1994, one in 1995 and two in 1996.

To deter sexual assaults, Columbia offers escorts for students to and from areas within several blocks of the campus.

The Yale University Police received reports of three sex assaults on campus in 1998, two in 1999 and two in 2000, with one assault taking place off campus.

Yale senior Laura Smolowe, a staff member at the Yale Women's Resource Center, disputed those figures.

"The university says we have a very low rate of sexual assault, but I don't think this is very true," she said.

The New Haven school prides itself on its efforts to control crime, including its large campus police force and extensive system of campus safety phones.

Freshmen attend a mandatory session about sexual assault, but "the best efforts are those done by students," according to Smolowe.

The Harvard University Police received official reports of 15 sexual assaults in 1998, six in 1999 and seven in 2000.